Recent research into animal feeds and animal grazing shows the impact farming animals has on our planet, and strengthens the case for meat and dairy-free diets. The WWF reported recently that crops used to feed animals puts an enormous strain on our natural resources. The biggest environmental impacts of diets rich in meat and dairy-products comes from growing the crops used to feed the animals.
People in the UK eat far more protein than is recommended by dietitians. Much of this protein coming from eating meat which is produced by feeding soy and corn to animals. The average person consumes the equivalent of 61kg of soy per year indirectly by the animal products they eat – a vast amount compared to how much soy they might eat directly. Growing soy to feed animals that are then used to feed people is incredibly inefficient compared to growing soy for people to eat directly. The WWF calculated that an area of agricultural land one and a half times the size of the European Union could be saved if everyone reduced their animal products consumption to dietary recommended levels. However, although not calculated by the WWF, a much bigger saving of land would be achieved if vegan diets became the norm. Intensive industrial farming combined with the need to produce vast amounts of animal feed is having a devastating effect on our planet.
While the WWF report focused on the impact of growing crops to feed animals, it didn’t consider the impact of animal grazing. The Food Climate Research Network at the University of Oxford has reported that animal grazing is incredibly inefficient, globally supplying only 1 gram of protein per person per day of the 81 grams the average person consumes, despite occupying approximately one-third of the world’s land area. They report also that farming animals and supplying animal products to consumers (the “livestock supply chain” as they term it), contributes 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
George Monbiot makes the case that we need to end livestock farming now. Just as livestock grazing globally takes up huge areas of land, in the UK it is also very land intensive. Sheep graze a similar area to the cropped lands of the UK but provide only 1% of our dietary calories. Plant proteins can be produced so much more efficiently with so much less land, allowing large areas of land returned to nature if people switched to vegan diets. He concludes that if we are to have a sustainable future then we need such a revolutionary change.
There is now a great range of amazing vegan foods being produced, and at Nutgrove Kitchen we're proud to be part of that with our dairy-free cheeses. Maybe this revolution is starting - and not before time.